Baking with tea: Little leaves, big flavor

Sipping a cup of tea while enjoying a few afternoon treats has lost its place in most kitchens these days. Savoring a steamy mug of English Breakfast has been sequestered to snow days and chilly weekends. It’s time to bring tea back into our daily lives. When there’s no time to sip slowly, or it’s just too hot out to enjoy a mug, why not try baking with tea? We’ve found five methods to incorporate teas directly into your baked goods.

Baking With Tea-17 via@kingarthurflour

We’ve done a bit of baking with tea in the past. Tea Brack is a classic, hearty Irish cake using a cup of brewed Irish Breakfast tea as the liquid. Chai is an ingredient we also love, as the spices of chai lend themselves well to baking, especially during the holidays. But we’ve never really let the tea leaves do the talking in our bakes. That time has come.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

When I was a wee one, there were two kinds of tea in my mind. Green tea, which I would only have in Chinese restaurants, and black tea that I enjoyed at home with milk and sugar. Nothing crazy. Now there are stores entirely devoted to tea, seemingly all teas I’ve never heard of.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Baking with tea: Which to choose?

First things first, let’s select our tea leaves for the day. We’ll start with matcha, a strong, finely milled powder made from green tea leaves. It’s available in most grocery stores and health food stores but can also be found online.

Second, we’ll use whole green tea leaves in tea bags. Because the leaves are bagged and won’t be added directly to our baked goods, this tea will lend a much milder green tea flavor than the matcha.

Lastly, we’ll use jasmine dragon pearls, which are most easily found in tea shops.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

While the last may sound a little intimidating (dragons can do that), I promise, they’re so worth the experiment. Jasmine dragon pearls are made by hand rolling tender green tea leaves into “pearls” and mixing them with fresh jasmine blossoms.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Jasmine dragon pearls, opened and closed

The tea leaves absorb the incredible fragrance of the jasmine flowers. After sifting out the blossoms, what remains are aromatic, jasmine-scented green tea pearls that open up like a flower in water.

Looking to amp up your favorite recipe? Check out 5 methods for baking with tea to infuse your next batch with unique flavors. Click To Tweet

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Method 1: Mix powdered tea directly into your ingredients

Let’s get to work with our first bake: Cream Puffs filled with a matcha pastry cream. The delicate flavor of tea can easily be overshadowed by stronger ingredients such as chocolate or fruit. Cream puffs made from a classic pâte à choux are the perfect vehicle to hold a slightly sweet, matcha-infused pastry cream in all its green glory.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Matcha can have a grassy or bitter flavor if overused, so sweetened pastry cream offsets any potential bitterness beautifully. When preparing the flour, cornstarch, egg yolk, and milk mixture for your pastry cream, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha powder. The more you add, the stronger the flavor and color will be.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Method 2: Steep teabags in liquid ingredients

If you’re unable to find matcha or have some extra green tea lying around the pantry, steep 3 to 4 green tea bags in the milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla mixture as it comes to a simmer on the stove. Once the mixture has simmered for one to two minutes, dispose of the tea bags and proceed as normal with the yolk mixture.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Green tea bags give pastry cream a soft coffee color, versus the pastel green from matcha

The flavor of the pastry cream made with green tea bags won’t be as strong as the matcha version. The lighter, floral flavor of the green tea is wonderful for newer tea drinkers, or for those who prefer a more mild cup.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Combine 1/4 teaspoon matcha with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and dust your puffs for a dainty finishing touch.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Method 3: Mix ground tea leaves with dry ingredients

Next, we’ll bring our jasmine dragon pearls to the table to make some delicately aromatic, buttery shortbread cookies. Add 2 teaspoons of finely ground jasmine dragon pearls to your flour before adding it to your butter and sugar mixture.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

We want as fine a texture of the tea as possible, so a food processor is ideal. However, a mortar and pestle will work in a pinch.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

The speckled effect from the tea not only looks appealing but also gives a little hint as to what may be inside.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Method 4: Infuse sugar ahead of time

For a few weeks, I’ve been infusing some confectioners’ sugar with jasmine dragon pearls at my desk, leaving me with an incredibly scented, flavorful, and versatile sugar. You could use this sugar in anything, just to add a little jasmine surprise. The best part? The tea is still totally usable. After sifting the sugar, you’re left with perfectly flavorful tea ready to be steeped and enjoyed.

To make your own tea-infused sugar, combine 1 tablespoon of your favorite loose tea, or 1 teabag, with one cup of sugar, be it granulated or confectioners’. Store it in a canister or jar. Give it a stir or a shake every day to ensure the tea flavor is evenly distributed for at least one week. The longer the ingredients mingle, the stronger the results will be. Sift before using.

Looking to infuse brown sugar? The strong molasses flavor will likely overpower the subtle flavors of jasmine. Chai or ginger teas could make for some delicious experimentation.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Method 5: Use brewed tea as the liquid in your recipe

Once the shortbread cookies have cooled, brew a cup of jasmine tea. Combine 1/2 cup of sifted jasmine-infused confectioners’ sugar with 2 to 3 teaspoons of hot tea. Drizzle over cookies and let set. Enjoy with the remains of your steamy cup of tea.

Baking With Tea via@kingarthurflour

Baking with tea: endless possibilities

Now that we’ve established various methods for infusing your favorite bakes with tea, the creativity can really begin!

Whether you make a chamomile glaze for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, add ground earl grey to your Creamy Orange Scones, or steep peppermint in the milk for your Grasshopper Cupcakes, you’re sure to create something special.

What’s your favorite tea, and what could you bake with it? Share your creative ideas with us in the comments below!

Thank you to Anne Mientka for taking the photos for this post.

Annabelle Nicholson
About

Annabelle grew up in New Hampshire and Vermont and attended New England Culinary Institute to study baking and pastry arts. She works on the Digital Engagement Team, and spends her non-baking time playing board games and cuddling her hedgehog.

comments

  1. Dvorah

    Great article thank you. I was thinking on using peach tea ( the leaves ) with pumpkin, but probably the last one strong flavor overshadow the peach. I would like to have your opinion. Thank you

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      I’ve never thought of combining pumpkin with peach, Dvorah, but I like the idea of it! I think you’re right that the pumpkin will overpower the peach tea so much so that you wouldn’t be able to detect it. A good old-fashioned Custard Pie will be more willing to accept the peach flavor and let it shine. When it comes to pumpkin pie, a pretty strong flavor of tea is needed to be noticeable.

      A couple of Thanksgivings ago I made pumpkin pie with a chai tea crust. I literally just dumped a K-cup of chai tea into my flour and it made the dough speckled and beautiful. Ginger tea could also stand up to pumpkin, either in the crust or filling.

      If you want to do a peach/pumpkin combo in a baked good, I’d suggest adding chunks of peach along with peach tea to a pumpkin muffin or scone recipe. Nutmeg is delicious paired with both flavors so that could be what ties them together. Let me know what you wind up making and how it turns out — I’d love to hear. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  2. RJ

    This inspired me to try some dried lavender on hand that I didn’t really know what to do with, in some non-melting powdered sugar I recently purchased here at KAF.
    Then I sifted it over a pan of French lemon bars…and the olfactory floral note complemented the bright citrus (I make mine quite lemony) flavor nicely.
    There are so many possibilities/combinations to try – this new (to me) concept will keep me experimenting for a long time…TY!

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      That sounds like such a refreshing summer treat, RJ! I’m so glad this post inspired you to do some tasty experimentation in the kitchen. Happy tea-filled baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Joshua Sasmor

    I like to make rice with jasmine green tea in it. Just toss a tea bag in for as little or as long as you want while you make rice on the stove top. I know it’s not exactly baking but…

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      What a great idea, Joshua – I’m going to have to try that this weekend. Thanks for spreading some tasty inspiration! Annabelle@KAF

    2. Emmanuelle

      Ohh great idea ! We are devoted rice eaters at home (we have at least 3 different types of rice, and this is only for the white rices) so this idea makes my day. I’ll try it ASAP.

    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      Shortbread does seem like the perfect vehicle for subtle flavors like tea, Diana. It’s a recipe I never tire experimenting with! Annabelle@KAF

  4. Leslie B.

    Earl Grey shortbread and butter cookies are a favorite of mine. I grind the contents of a few tea bags in a spice grinder to get 4 tsp. of powder and add to the dough. Yum. Thanks for suggesting other ways to use tea in baked goods!

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      Ooh, that sounds yummy, Leslie. It’s fun to add ground tea to pie crusts too. Can you imagine how tasty a lemon meringue pie would be with an earl grey crust? Summer baking can’t come any sooner! Annabelle@KAF

    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      It’s always our pleasure to share, Mary! Be sure to let us know what you wind up baking – there are no bad recipes to add tea to. Annabelle@KAF

  5. Emmanuelle

    Thank you for that ! I was thinking about tea baking beyond infusing tea in the milk or matcha powder, and had no clue.

    But as I read the article, I was thinking about infusing tea in melted butter and then letting the butter get solid again.
    Do you think this would work ?
    Emma

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      That sounds like a great idea, Emma! Double check the tea’s recommend steep time. Butter can hold heat for a while so something that only needs to steep for a minute could become bitter as the mixture cools. Anything with a steep time of two minutes or more should be perfect. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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